Primitive as Can Be
This writer has long been fascinated by the output of Toronto’s Holy Fuck, their percolating dance-funk powered by technologies like Casio keyboards and filmstrips. H.F. mainstay Brian Borcherdt, however, has a quiet history of work in multiple forms of indie-pop. In the spirit of those sounds, his new project, Dusted’s debut Total Dust, finds Borcherdt playing the Skipper, purposely grounding the S.S. Minnow on Gilligan’s Island in order to embrace the concept of not a single luxury.
As a creative experiment, Borcherdt ran off to an isolated cabin during a Nova Scotia December. He battled discomfort and sleeplessness by creating music made from a limited set of building blocks including bass synth, a damaged amp and tambourine. Minimally produced and fleshed out with help from Leon Taheny (of Rituals and Final Fantasy), Total Dust is warm and cold at the same time. The Holy Fuck grooves that put Borcherdt on the map have been traded in for far more intimate vocal and acoustic explorations.
Songs like “Pale Light” expose us to Borcherdt’s voice through soft-focus production. “Cut Them Free,” with its images of suspension and bondage, suggest his songwriting could be a literal and virtual monster. Dusted exhibit restraint with their synthetic elements—the sad gallop of “(Into the) Atmosphere,” the orchestral swooshes in the beautiful crawl of “Low Humming”—and even manage to harness power in the arrangement of the yelping “Property Lines.”
Total Dust may be dour and curt, but it’s also a welcome surprise, at times referencing The White Stripes’ early slow blues, Fleet Foxes’ despairing melodies and other modern troubadour acts like Lambchop and The Tallest Man on Earth. Borcherdt and Dusted present acoustic guitar-driven angst from an unlikely and profoundly isolated source.